KNOXVILLE — Derek Dooley said Monday it was “still too early to tell” whether freshman quarterback Tyler Bray would again rotate with junior starter Matt Simms on Saturday at South Carolina, but Simms’ health might leave Dooley little choice.
Simms wasn’t available for comment after Monday’s practice because he didn’t practice, according to UT sports information officials.
Dooley speaks before Monday’s practice but not afterward, so the coach wasn’t available to comment on the situation. He did say earlier that Simms was “a little dinged up,” but he didn’t specify the injury. Simms walked around the indoor complex Monday night with a noticeable limp and a small brace on his left knee.
“I think it’s too early to tell, but chances are we’ll maybe stick with the same plan,” Dooley said of the quarterback rotation. “I think it’s too early to tell. Matt’s a little dinged up. He got hit a few times.
“We’ll practice today, tomorrow and the next day and figure it out later in the week.”
Dooley said he didn’t regret playing Bray in Saturday’s loss at Alabama, adding, “I don’t think looking back we would have won the game had we not played him.”
Dooley said he didn’t like rotating quarterbacks for several reasons, one being the criticism that comes with the territory.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s not what you want as a coach, because you never win. The only way you win is if both quarterbacks play great and you win the game, and that never happens. If one guy plays well early and you put the other guy in, it’s ‘Boy, we screwed up the [rhythm].’ If one guy plays poorly early and you put the other guy in, ‘Well, he never had a chance to play into the game.’
“You can’t win. But I just feel sometimes you have to do it. You have to do it to help you win the game.”
Simpler special teams
Dooley said he’s “never seen anything like” his team’s struggles to consistently get 11 men on the field to defend field goals and special teams.
His temporary plan to fix the issue? Stop substituting.
Whoever’s on the field for defense the play before a field goal or extra point will simply stay out there for the kick.
“Our goal on field-goal block this week is to have 11 men on the field,” Dooley said. “Now we’re going to have to teach them what to do and all that. We probably won’t block the kick.”
Dooley doesn’t love his new strategy but said he’s not sure what else to do about the recurring problem.
“I’ve always wanted to go pluck one, be aggressive,” Dooley said. “To do that you have to substitute people and get your best rushers, edge guys. Hey, it’s what we’ve got to do, because we obviously aren’t good enough coaches to do it the other way. That’s a fact.”
Senior wide receiver Denarius Moore, who left the Alabama game on the first series after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit, practiced Monday in a no-contact jersey. He is expected to play at South Carolina, though.
Dooley continued to say sophomore cornerback starter Marsalis Teague is “day to day” with a sprained big toe — or turf toe.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot, but sometimes when you’ve got to run and cut, a toe can be a real nagging injury,” Dooley said.
Sophomore offensive guard JerQuari Schofield hopes to return to the starting lineup Saturday after missing the past four games with a broken bone on his foot.
“I tried to play through it, but that didn’t work out too good. It was tough [to sit], but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” said Schofield, who added that he was “about 90 percent” healthy.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Naz Oliver, who tore an ACL in the Orange and White spring game, returned to practice without a no-contact jersey Monday and hopes to play Saturday week at Memphis, though he wouldn’t completely rule out the South Carolina game.
“It feels so good to be back out there. Hopefully I can help the team as soon as possible and help out my guys in the secondary. We need the depth,” Oliver said.